December 7: Kendall Mork, WW2 Aviator
Kendall Mork was born on this date in 1918 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. At three-and-a-half years of age, Kendall was orphaned when both his parents succumbed to Tuberculosis. An aunt and uncle in Hatton, North Dakota took him. After graduating from High School, he went to the Agriculture College in Fargo, Luther College in Iowa, and then the University of Southern California for Aviation Engineering.
When war broke out, Kendall Mork joined the Army Air Corp. He trained as a bombardier and his first assignment was flying anti-submarine duty off the West Coast. Mork then headed to North Africa with the 20th Squadron of the 2nd Bomb Group, flying B-17s. The first stop was a base in Algeria. Then came Tunisia. And in December of ’43, they moved to a base in Italy.
From there, they flew long-range missions into German-occupied Europe. On February 24th, 1944, Mork’s bomb group flew to a target in Steyr, Austria. Several hundred German fighters attacked the bomber formation. Mork’s plane was hit from behind with 20-millimeter cannon. The pilot, Paul Foust, was killed. Mork was wounded, hit in his right hip, leg and elbow. The plane was going down so Mork parachuted from the nose hatch. He landed in the snow in the Austrian mountains and was captured by German Soldiers. He was treated well by German doctors, spending time in several hospitals. One was near a German fighter base, which was inadvertently bombed by the Allies. Several POWs were killed, and Mork suffered minor shrapnel wounds. He eventually ended up in the Stalag Luft III POW camp in Poland.
Due to Mork’s injuries, it was determined by the German doctors that Kendall could never return to active duty. So, it was decided that Mork could one of several POWs to be repatriated, sent back to the Allies to be cared for. He was taken to Marseille, France then to Paris, and from there he was flown back to the States where he convalesced at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington DC.
Kendall recovered and returned to North Dakota and raised a family. He passed away in 2002.
Dakota Datebook by Scott Nelson
- Kendall Mork interview – UND Chester Fritz Library
- 2nd Bomb Group WW2 records
- Missing Air Crew Report for B-17G s/n 42-37970